Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 22
 
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
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Use of Boy Scouts to Serve Politicians Diminished Spirit of Princeton Parade

GERALD ESSIG
Trewbridge Court

Library Patrons Are Urged to Sample Monthly Readings Over Coffee Series

PHYLLIS SUBER
Terhune Road

Letter Carriers Thanked for Efforts in Collecting Food Drive Donations

(2 Letters)

Insensitivity on Environmental Issues Perceived by Planning Board Critics

(3 Letters)


Use of Boy Scouts to Serve Politicians Diminished Spirit of Princeton Parade

To the Editor:

This year’s Spirit of Princeton parade and pancake breakfast showed Princeton almost at its best.

One item distressed me then and continues to do so. When our Senator and Congressman joined the parade (it was nice to see them; I only wish that other contesting members of their party and the other party could have joined them), they marched with banners. Politics is politics. 

The problem is that they enlisted the help of four Boy Scouts, in full uniform, to carry their banners. Does this imply that the Boy Scouts were endorsing these elected officials?

The leaders of the Scouts and the Spirit of Princeton should have known better. Four young men or women without uniforms could have done just as well.

GERALD ESSIG
Trewbridge Court

Library Patrons Are Urged to Sample Monthly Readings Over Coffee Series

To the Editor:

I’d like to remind everyone of a wonderful monthly event at the Princeton Public Library. For many years, I have been attending “Readings over Coffee,” at which a variety of readers and performers entertain the audience with stories, essays, poems, scenes from plays, and commentary — from hilarious to poignant to serious and everything in between.

The readers include an Australian-born priest with a sense of humor and a marvelous speaking voice, a professor with great dramatic skills, and a group of actors (who sometimes sing) who never fail to entertain with their plays and skits.

Often there is a relatively small audience in the Community Room to listen to “Readings.” Princeton has so much to offer in the way of events that it’s often difficult to choose what to attend, but I encourage folks to give “Readings over Coffee” a try. It would be a great pity if we lost this gem of a series due to poor attendance. Come! Enjoy!

PHYLLIS SUBER
Terhune Road

Letter Carriers Thanked for Efforts in Collecting Food Drive Donations

To the Editor:

On behalf of the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank, I extend our heartfelt appreciation to the letter carriers of Branch 380 and Branch 268 of the National Association of Letter Carriers for participating in the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, and collecting food donations as they went along their routes on Saturday, May 10. At the end of the day, our warehouse was filled with postal tubs overflowing with food donated by caring residents.

Over the last two decades, the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank has built a system for securing and distributing food and groceries and providing nutrition assistance to ensure that the most vulnerable of our citizens do not go hungry. Shamefully, the problem of hunger has not abated and thousands of children, adults, and seniors in our community suffer from the consequences of living in poverty or on the edge of poverty. Even more alarming, the number of people seeking our help is soaring as the cost of food and other daily living essentials continues to spiral upwards.

I thank the letter carriers for supporting our work. Their efforts will make a difference in ensuring that the less fortunate among us do not go hungry.

PHYLLIS C. STOOLMACHER
Director
Mercer Street Friends Food Bank

To the Editor:

On Saturday, May 10, we held our annual food drive for the 16th consecutive year. I would like to just take a moment to thank all those who participated and let you know how much we appreciate your support. With your help and generosity this year we were able to collect over 23,000 pounds of food, which proved to be our biggest year ever. The food was delivered to the Mercer Street Friends Food Kitchen and will be used to help families in need within the Mercer County area.

I would also like to thank all the carriers, both city and rural, who worked so hard that day. And a special thanks to those city carriers who volunteered their time to stay and help break down and load the food. We look forward to your continued help in the years to come.

RONALD J. PROCACCINO
President, Princeton Branch 268
National Association of Letter Carriers

Insensitivity on Environmental Issues Perceived by Planning Board Critics

To the Editor:

I read with interest the letter to the editor headlined “Conflicting Influences Often Weighed in Complex Planning Board Decisions” (Town Topics, May 21).

As a former member serving for the last 13 years on the Princeton Environmental Commission and Princeton Health Commission, I and others have often felt frustration over some actions of the Princeton Regional Planning Board in their apparent lack of interest, and even dismissiveness, regarding environmental protection, with the notable exception of a small minority of its members. This in spite of Princeton’s Master Plans prominently espousing such protections.

I have often wondered why this is so in a presumably enlightened community. One of the possible reasons is that some of the discretionary appointments to the Planning Board are made on the basis of a person’s profession or employment. In seeking specific experience in appointments, the resulting frame of reference in land use decisions has too often been unnecessarily weighted in favor of inappropriate land use with subordinate consideration to environmental protection. Partly, this may be due to some members’ lack of knowledge or interest in ecology since that was not a consideration in their appointments.

One way to better balance the compromises between development and environmental protection would be to appoint to the Planning Board people with professional backgrounds in ecology and environmental protection. Recent land use decisions in Princeton Township do not reflect the new realities of which we should be aware, especially given the “Sustainable Princeton” initiative launched with a $60,000 grant from the New Jersey Municipal Land Use Center. This is meant to be an important policy vehicle to foster more sustainable actions in Princeton but has not been notable in recent land use decisions. For example, sustainability would favor building high density housing, especially for seniors, in areas close to amenities where the need for motor vehicle transit is lessened and where a healthy walking lifestyle can be fostered. This appears to be happening in the Borough but not in the Township, even though a large number of residents have opposed development that is not “smart growth.”

I remember the callous response of one current Planning Board member, also a member of Township Committee, when I asked about an ordinance drafted a couple of years ago for mandatory replacement of large trees when they are destroyed in development. Such replacement is now voluntary and I recall one developer reminding local officials that he didn’t legally have to replace any trees so they should be satisfied with what he was offering. The response to my question about the status of the ordinance was “That’s just not a priority. Not everyone cares about trees that much.” Tree replacement should be a requirement and not used as a bargaining chip with developers.

We must incorporate in our actions what we have learned about the effects of loss of woodlands, flooding, energy conservation, and climate change, so that our decisions better reflect “think globally, act locally.”

As Thoreau said, “Of what good is a house if we don’t have a tolerable planet to put it on.”

GRACE SINDEN
Ridgeview Circle

To the Editor:

The letter to the editor from the chair of the Princeton Regional Planning Board, Peter Madison (Town Topics, May 21) attacks a citizen, Jane Buttars, for expressing her opinion in her earlier letter to the editor. Ms. Buttars’ letter, which Mr. Madison deemed “if not hostile, offensive,” raised some legitimate questions that bother many Princetonians. His letter obscures rather than clarifies the discussion. The fact is that the Township Committee and Planning Board are pushing for senior housing on a remote piece of land, and not pushing for senior housing at an appropriate place such as the  Shopping Center.

Mr. Madison overlooked something when he wrote that “Changing the zoning to preserve open space … could be considered within a legal environment as a taking of the land.” Ms. Buttars was not asking in her letter that the zoning be changed to preserve open space. It should also be noted that in establishing the Senior Housing Overlay Zone in 2001 and then in revising that Overlay in 2008, the Township massively inflated the value of one property within the Overlay Zone. Thus, it  hardly seems like a painful suffering if that enhancement is reduced.

Public officials, both volunteer and elected, need to hear from citizens, whose views are a necessary part of the civic process.  When those views are attacked, citizen activism is discouraged.

SARAH HOLLISTER
Ridgeview Road

To the Editor:

I write to reply to Mr. Peter Madison’s letter (Town Topics, May 21). His criticism of my letter of May 14 warrants response.

Mr. Madison oddly compares the Hillier development allowed by the amended Ordinance (subject to a lawsuit filed by People for Princeton Ridge, Inc.) with “the 90,000 square foot office building and 400+ parking spaces permitted by the underlying [Office Research] zoning.” It should be noted that Mr. Hillier stated that his condo units would each be 1200 to 1500 square feet, i.e. 189,600 to 237,000 square feet in all, dwarfing an office building. Why does Mr. Madison assume that a developer’s agreement with the Township for Office/Research could never stipulate underground parking or pervious surfacing — or plain gravel — that absorbs stormwater, as at other Bunn Drive sites?

The Planning Board voted in a split decision to grant the landowner the maximum extension for site-plan approval. Mr. Madison knows that the Board was not required thus to act. By granting approval for a shorter time period, the Board could have signaled its conviction that any high-density building is inappropriate for the site and that the 2001 Residential Senior Community Overlay was a mistake. The Board could have quietly pressed the owners, the Lowes, to sell the land for a use more environmentally suitable than senior housing.

My letter did not refer to “changing the zoning to preserve open space.” But Mr. Madison speculates that such a change “could be considered … as a taking of the land.” That is improbable; courts do not construe a re-zoning as a “taking.” More pertinently, Township Committee is authorized to remove the senior overlay and the Office/Research zoning. The property can then be re-zoned to its original status, which permitted one dwelling per four acres when the Lowes purchased it in 1984. The Planning Board can also initiate such a downzoning.

Commenting on my noting that the Princeton Shopping Center owners “are still actively interested in selling” acreage to a developer for senior housing, Mr. Madison supposes that any new plan would duplicate a past scheme. We are all more cognizant now about “smart growth,” green development, and neighborhood consultation. Why does he ignore the fact that a Shopping Center representative recently asked if the Township was “ready to talk”?

Mr. Madison thinks I meant to “denigrate the contribution” of volunteer officials’ work. He generalizes my specific reference to the “folly” of votes on a particular issue. I am dismayed that he calls “offensive, if not hostile” a letter from a citizen writing responsibly to influence public and municipal thinking. We thank our governing bodies, elected and appointed alike. We fervently wish they would commit themselves to a sustainable Princeton.

JANE BUTTARS
Dodds Lane

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